Nettle Soup (Ciorbă de Urzici)

Springs are often rainy in Romania, and this warm soup makes quite a delightful companion when the skies are gray. Although not as common as nettle purée, the soup is still a Lent favorite in many households. Again, recipe variations aren’t uncommon across Romania. Non-vegans or people who aren’t fasting serve it with a dollop of heavy sour cream.

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 pounds freshly harvested spring nettles
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 3 tablespoons white rice, washed thoroughly
  • 3/4 cup tomato juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Wash the fresh nettle leaves thoroughly in cold water in a deep pot. Use rubber gloves to protect your skin from the stings. Don’t drain the water; instead, remove the nettles with a skimmer to allow any impurities to fall to the vessel’s bottom before changing the water. Repeat this operation several times until the water is clear.

Blanch the nettles in a pot of salted, boiling water (about 4 1/4 cups) for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and strain through a sieve, reserving the liquid. When the nettles have cooled enough to handle, chop them finely on a wooden surface.

Heat the oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and carrot for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring to avoid darkening.

Add the rice, nettles, and reserved broth from boiling the nettles, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomato juice. Cover and simmer on low for 5 to 7 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked.

Add the garlic and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Simmer for a couple minutes more. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and lemon juice as needed.

Remove from heat and serve hot, sprinkled with fresh parsley leaves.

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